day 5 mcleods corner michigan to ottawa


My last night camping for a couple of weeks. Good thing - I have'nt showered in 5 days. My only decision this morning is what to do with Lake Huron. Go above it thru Sault Ste. Marie or dip down between the lakes thru central Michigan and cross at Sarnia. The latter route is much longer. The only reason I'm tempted by it is its all new and I'd get to visit and play music with Fern Deziel in Uxbridge just north of Toronto. Fern moved there from his water-access hideout up Indian Arm on the BC coast. I miss his playing - he has the best ear of any musician I know. I send him tapes and he learns all the tunes on them in a few takes. He's supposed to make it to Ottawa later for his moms birthday - his home town is St. Pierre de Wakefield on the Quebec side. Solid French CDN, a great Cajun fiddler, a bona fide character who rides Harleys so severely chopped they can't have any front brakes.

I opt for the direct route to Ottawa - sort of. Its only 10 hours or so from The Soo, as its affectionately called - its really a shithole - a roughneck pulp town known for its homicidal hockey team - but I've got one last drive in Ontario I haven't done yet and always wanted to - thru Haliburton and Bancroft in the hardscrabble bush country of eastern Ontario. Highway 69 from Sudbury to Parry Sound is a bad drive - the worst on the trip. Toronto bound holiday-weekenders take it as personal insult if you hang back more than a car length from the vehicle in front. It looks like their heads are going to explode as they blow by to fill up the gap. An hour later they're still only a few car lengths ahead but happily zippered to the car in front. If I lived in Toronto it would have to be downtown in a walking neighborhood.

tintype of John Laughlin 1787-1881 and wife Mary 1806-1885 Haliburton turns out to be a tourist town in full tilt as I pass thru. I see my first chip wagon in Bancroft. You need to be from Ontario or Quebec to appreciate chip wagons. My roots are in the Ottawa Valley - only an hour or so away now. Five generations - all living on the original homestead farms near Kinburn. Once the Irish get some land they tend to stay put - although a third of my parents generation left - and almost all of mine. Chip wagons serve up huge portions of french fries in paper boxes with massive tin salt shakers. My craving for chips goes back to the Great Irish French Frie Famine of '33 when my great-great-grandfather John L first came to the Ottawa Valley. Brought a fearsome looking wife and 12 kids on a wooden ship - lost a child and gained another on board. I can feel the pull of the Valley on me as I approach it near Renfrew. The land becomes fertile again. A 5 hour flight from Vancouver to Ottawa is too long - a 5 day road trip is just about right. Its good to be home.

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